Devon's prettiest homes: A restored village home in Appledore
PUBLISHED: 17:32 11 February 2019
New country, new house, new life, old buildings - CHRISSY HARRIS meets a couple who changed everything by restoring what was already there
Appledore is a completely charming, picturesque North Devon village with a tight-knit community proud of its heritage. Enter Garth and Sascha Hughes who arrived here from Hong Kong with their three kids, bought a striking house with beautiful views, took over the empty local pub and started two mammoth building projects.
You can imagine the raised eyebrows. This is a village well used to people wanting a slice of Appledore’s assets.
But this time it was different. Former corporate banker Garth, 42, and Sascha, 43, an artist, have painstakingly and sympathetically revived a neglected historic village house, which was on the verge of being repossessed.
While that was being done - rather incredibly - the couple also managed to resurrect a tumbledown, derelict pub and turn it into one of the most exciting foodie destinations in the area.
These new locals have certainly shown plenty of community spirit. “Both properties are quite well known in the village so people knew about us well before we knew them,” says Sascha, laughing at the fact her family must have been the talk of the neighbourhood for a while.
“They remembered this house and the pub as it used to be,” she adds, standing in the smart-looking kitchen of Grade-II-listed Bude House. “We knew we had to do it all properly.”
With such history attached to the buildings, the pressure was on to do them both justice - but that was always the plan.
Garth and Sascha wanted to preserve as much as they could of the 18th Century buildings they had bought in a place they had come to love.
The family relocated here from Hong Kong eight years ago after falling for Appledore’s charms during a couple of summer holidays in the village.
They bought a house down the road, which became their UK base. Then they decided to take on The Royal George pub and start a new life in North Devon.
“I reached the stage where I couldn’t see myself behind a desk for another 20 years,” says Garth, who worked for Barclays as a corporate banker, a job that involved regular trips between Hong Kong, Korea and Australia,
“We wanted somewhere we could call home and the children could put down some roots.”
Bude House came on the market just as the family decided to make Appledore their permanent home.
Garth doesn’t mince his words when he says that the property was in a less-than-ideal state.
“Oh, it was a complete s***hole,” he exclaims. “Nothing had been done for years. It was damp, there were holes in the roof which meant the water was killing everything inside; the wood, the masonry. Lots of the wood had been painted black, there were things growing out of the building...”
It’s at this point in these sorts of conversations that I realise I’m no property developer.
How does anyone see past all of that? “At first, I did think, it’s too much, I can’t do it,” says Sascha, adding that there were trees growing in the living room when she first looked around.
“That was on the one hand…” says Garth. “But then we thought, if it all works out, it will be really cool.
“It’s definitely about taking the longer view. I’ll put up with whatever I need to put up with if I know it’s going to be beautiful in the end.”
Garth’s eternal optimism, together with Sascha’s calm, thorough and practical attention to detail saw this eyesore of a building become eye-catching once again.
Rather than replace the rotting windows, each one was beautifully restored. The roof was redone and walls and floors stripped back.
Open living space has been created to help show off the building’s size and shape, the result of the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian add-ons which give this house a very grand feel.
Outside, more than 200 tonnes of clay were dug out of the rear garden to create a terraced garden that allows light to flood in through the back.
“This project really was straightforward, in a way,” says Sascha, as we pass the outdoor pizza oven and climb the steps to see the best view of this handsome house. “Everything was here. It was just a case of repairing and restoring it.”
The couple heap praise on their team of local builders and craftsmen who they say shared their passion for original features and techniques.
Many of the tradesmen are now their friends - inevitable when you’ve been together for so long.
“We lived together for about 18 months,” says Garth, breezily explaining how he, Sascha and their children, Max, 13, Jools, 11 and Seraphine, nine, plus their two dogs camped in the rooms upstairs while most of the renovation was going on.
The only means of escape was the short walk down to the pub where they then opened the door to yet more dust and builders.
Taking on two such monumental projects at the same time must have required superhuman strength of mind.
“It was what it was,” says Garth, standing in Sascha’s home studio room, surrounded by her artwork and a top view down a picture-perfect Appledore street. “But you just get through it,” he adds.
“Then you sort of open your eyes at the end and smile.